Happy Birthday to my Dear Old Mum

Saturday 1430 – 2nd March 2013

Glasses of Champagne It’s my mothers 87th Birthday today. She won’t be reading this as she can barely see now but she would probably say  “why have you got glasses of champagne when I don’t drink?”. Good point mum but I kinda liked the photo so there ya go. 

It has a celebratory feel to it, even though it’s from a wedding, and birthday’s should be celebrated shouldn’t they?? Well shouldn’t they?

I visited mum last week. She’s recently moved into a residential home, which is attached to the sheltered housing flats where she lived for over 20 years. It has not been as traumatic a move as it often is when an elderly person moves into a home, as my mum knows all the staff there.  If you’ve been following my blog for a while you’ll know that I’m a social worker, working with older people but what you may not know is that I worked in a residential home, mostly in a specialist dementia unit, for over 10 years so I know what I’m talking about here.

I have written about my mum before back in december 2011 when she was merely 85!  The post was called Portrait of my Mother and you can read it here .  Take a look as it’s highly relevant to what I’m going to write now.

Okay back to the birthday. When I visited last week ( a lovely long visit where we reminisced a lot ) and again when I talked to my mum on the phone today, she told me that when she was young she had never expected to live to be this age because people didn’t “back in those days”.  True enough. My dad died when I was 17 and he was 68 (42 years ago.) and I don’t remember anyone saying how young he was, whereas now that would be considered to be very young indeed.  My mum had to work hard all her life, especially as my dad died when she was only 44 and she has known the grief of burying one of her children, my brother Geoff, when he was 53. It has not been easy for her.

Mum told me she didn’t know if it was a good idea or not to live to be such an age, now that she can’t see and is hardly able to walk. I don’t think she likes having to rely on others to attend to all her needs, as she has always been very independent. She said it is strange to know she is now very near the end of her life.

(The photo below was taken about 18 months ago, just before I got my new camera.)


Mum says what she misses most is not being able to paint at all now as this was always such a great love of hers. It causes her both deep sadness and frustration.  I imagine, if I get to her age and lose my sight, that I may well  feel exactly the same with my love of art and photography? 

Quality of life over quantity?  Food for thought indeed… ?

My mum went quietly into old age but I think the poem below describes how I might approach it being of quite a different nature 😀


When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.      

Jenny Joseph.


Saturday Girl signing off now.  See you next week.


You can find my photography blog Photomania here and I hope you’ll pop over and take a look if you haven’t already.. photos of Mallorca , continuing London People and a new minimalism series also in the pipeline to say nothing of a portrait of an allotment to come eventually!



15 comments on “Happy Birthday to my Dear Old Mum

  1. krikitarts says:

    Helen, this really touched me. My mom left us in June last year, a little less than two months after her 101st birthday. I had spent a week with her just a week before her departure, and I’ll always remember it. It is so important to share the most valuable gift that we can give–our time–with those whom we love, at all stages of life.

  2. Adrian Lewis says:

    Helen, I like this post – how glad I am that I’m trawling through posts that appeared when my computer was hors de combat!

    I identify very much with what you’re saying and my mum had a hard time too – she’s been dead 10 years now. I especially like the Jenny Joseph poem, and have taken a copy of it so that I’ll always have it around >>> its something to aspire to. Adrian

  3. I’ve just been listening to an interview with David Bowie on the radio. He’s 66 now, and says he doesn’t mind the aging process what’s worrying is death. As I’ve just reached my half century I know what he means. There’s less life ahead than behind me…presumably. A belated Happy Birthday to your Mum.

  4. Happy belated to Mom.

  5. mary haren says:

    hi helen. I remember your Mum well. I still have the little christmas decoration she knitted. We still talk about the cards and story books she embroidered for Katie and Steven. I hope she had a lovely birthday. My Mum will be 89 this month. Are’nt we so lucky
    to still have these wonderful ladies.

  6. Eleanor Lamport says:

    Hi Helen loved your post. Especially as I see my dear Mum at 91 struggling with life. She has a bad back at the moment and can hardly walk and in terrific pain. I wonder at her quality of life at present and it saddens me to see her like this. Quality over quantity any day! I can see bits of you in your Mum! Hope she had a good birthday. Love Elle xx

  7. cewarnes says:

    Happy Birthday Helen’s Mum!! I love Jenny Joseph’s poem, I hope that I will age disgracefully as well 🙂

  8. scillagrace says:

    “It’s not the years in your life but the life in your years that matters.” Abraham Lincoln. My late husband’s sister quoted that at his memorial. He was 47. I would definitely go for quality over quantity.

  9. bananabatman says:

    Happy Birthday to your Mum Helen. We all wonder what the future holds for us as we get older. My Dad died when he was 59 (I was 25). That was young, even then, This has always made me aware of my mortality, and as I approach my 70th (with luck), this year, I become progressively more aware, year on year. I must stop being morbid!

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